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Famous Like Me > Writer > C > Caryl Chessman

Profile of Caryl Chessman on Famous Like Me

Name: Caryl Chessman  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 27th May 1921
Place of Birth: St. Joseph, Michigan, USA
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Caryl Whitter Chessman (27 May 1921 – May 2, 1960) was the man convicted in a American court for supposedly being the "Red Light Bandit", who was known for robbing woman in their cars and sometimes forcing them out of the car to perform sex acts. Chessman was given the death penalty in 1948 and executed in 1960, but he claimed his innocence, and argued this convincingly, until the end. His case attracted world-wide attention and as a result he became a cause célèbre of the movement to ban capital punishment. Chessman appealed his conviction on the grounds that the original trial was improperly conducted and that subsequent appeals were seriously hampered by incomplete and incorrect transcripts of the original trial proceedings. The appeals were successful and the Supreme Court ordered the State of California to either conduct of full review of the transcripts or release Chessman. The review concluded that the transcript were substantially accurate and Chessman went to the gas chamber in 1960.

Chessman's execution was a tragedy. As the lethal gas was rising up in the gas chamber, the phone in execution room rang. It was the Governor's office calling and informing about a stay of execution. But, because the gas inside the chamber was so lethal and opening the chamber's door would be so very deadly for witnesses and prison officials, warden decided to continue with the execution. Could the executioner enter the chamber with a gas mask and put another mask to Chessman, is still a matter of dispute.

Part of the controversy in his case stems from the how the death penalty was applied in this case. At the time, under a California law known as the "Little Lindbergh" law, any crime that involved kidnapping with bodily harm could be considered a capital offense. One of the crimes Chessman was accused of involved dragging a woman a short distance from her car before forcing her to perform sex acts with him. Despite the short distance the woman was moved, the court considered it sufficient to qualify as kidnapping.

While on death row Chessman wrote four books: three autobiographical books focusing on his life, trial, the penal system, and death row, and also a novel. In the first book, Cell 2455, Chessman clearly implies having killed a man, though he was never prosecuted or convicted for this.

Most people familiar with Chessman's case agree that, regardless of his actual guilt or innocence, Chessman's insistence on representing himself ultimately led to his execution. Despite being very smart and very knowledgeable of the law, Chessman was an unprofessional trial performer who caused needless and counterproductive courtroom confrontations.

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Caryl Chessman